From Chi-city we introduce DotKom and Jay Arthur of TheWHOevers. Deriving from right in between the West and East coast sounds of hip-hop makes this duo’s sound truly boom-bap, yet soulful. They recently released their latest project, MARATHON, by creatively introducing each track separately as an episode; thereby creating a compilation of what they call a MARATHON TV series. They are as real as their music, only great and better productions can be expected of these to gentlemen. But don’t take our word for it, check out their interview and music below!
“Life is A Marathon” and here are a bunch of songs that we have expressed our livelihoods on.” -TheWHOevers
If you only had the option to listen to one album for the rest of your live which would it be?
J: That’s tough. I have a couple of favorites but real talk… I think the one album I would take is Beach Boys Pet Sounds. Crazy album.
D: Bob Marley and the Wailers – Legend
J, describe your city of Humboldt Park to us. What is the music culture like? Have you noticed any major transformations of the hip-hop scene there over time?
J: Didn’t grow up in Humboldt park use to live in K-town when I was growing up but eventually moved to the suburbs and lived the majority of my adolescence there. Humboldt has a vivid history ranging from its huge Puerto Rican background to is negative gang history. I wasn’t around these parts when it was really portrayed as a negative community. The couple years I have been here you can definitely see the change. There is definitely some sort of gentrification happening. As for the hip hop scene in this specific area, I haven’t seen it much only through the graffiti on the walls.
What part of Chicago are you from exactly?
J: (I) grew up in K-town and closer to a close by suburb called Skokie/Niles then moved way up to the northern suburbs for a lot of grade school to high school.
D: (I) lived around the outskirts of Chicago in a town called Berwyn, but recently just moved to LINCOLN PARK.
DotKom kinda sounds like “.com”; how did you settle for this artist name? Did you feel like you settled with the name?
D: My last name is Dotdot, so it kind of made sense for me to keep that just because my Dotdot family is heavy on musicians. All my uncles are musicians, and my Grandpa was like the biggest music director of his island back in the day. He was a very well known Jazz musician in the Philippines. So I mixed that with .com because I’m from the age of the Internet also, where I was able to learn soak in different info, music and culture. So basically like mixing my roots with the future I guess.
Were you exposed to music early on?
J: Yes I can recall my most memorable memories were records playing by my mother ranging from early R&B to soul and jazz. My cousins at family parties would always play the latest records when I was around so it was definitely there when I was younger.
D: Of course, my dad is the Kareoki king. My first tape was The Beatles #1 hits. I just loved good music. It also runs in the family. Also 90’s radio was pretty awesome. You had R&B , house mixes, and good hip-hop playing at the time so it wasn’t too hard to fall in love with it.
When did you decide to venture into creating your own music?
J: I say when I was in 6-7th grade. I listened to tons of rap. I wanted to try it out and I gave it a shout. Wrote my first ever rap verse to Snoop Doggs “Still A G Thang” instrumental I purchased from like a Target or something. Haha.
D: When my family moved to St. Louis, I was a freshman in high-school, I didn’t have too many friends. But when I met another new kid named Mike, and found out he liked the same music as me, we kind of started making songs. I would stay in and write instead of going to high-school parties to prevent boredom.
How did you two meet?
J: (We) met through a high school friend that went to college with Dot. They were doing music out there at Northern Illinois University while I was going to community college back home and making my own music. I started sending them beats and Dot liked them so much we decided to do a EP together; then I just started really formulating after that. (We) started hanging out more often then the rest is history. A valuable lesson I personally am learning at the moment is compromising with the whole team. It’s not just me and Dot making decisions. We have a 2 man team that helps things run the way they do (Chet G. & Switch What Up!). Everyone has a say so you have to respect everyone’s opinion. We clash heads a lot nowadays on how records sound but we all have to come to an agreement on them. Really just gotta learn to come together as a collective on choices. Which we’re all learning.
How did the development of your own style occur?
J: I always have enjoyed 90s R&B music so it’s important to me to add that kind of element to the music. We did a lot of experimenting with music on the “Ridin’ Waves” album. The music ranged from modern trap influences to the boom bap style we love. I think we just recently we have found our knack and style of sound on this new album “Marathon”.
D: Mine came from listening and studying everything that caught my ears.
As artists, sometimes we imitate others to develop and find our own style. Who were your major influences?
J: To name a few, but are my favorites, have to be J Dilla, D’Angelo, Yeezy, Michael, Stevie.
D: (I) like Common, Slum Village, the whole Rawkus roster, SoulAquarians, Kanye and all Golden Era heavy weights. All 90’s classics from R&B a and House. Recently, Soulection.
What does your music represent to you?
J: More or so my lifestyle. The way I live. Hopefully influence people out of it.
D: Dreamers and positivity.
What do you find the most appealing about this style of beats?
J: I enjoy lots of soulful rhodes chord progressions. Lots of lo fi stuff, dirty drums and snares.
D: As for myself, it’s the sound I started writing to so I am very accustomed to boom-bap beats. It’s like playing home court.
Do you guys consider analogue versus digital when making your beats? If so, which do you prefer?
J: It’s always been digital for me but maybe on the next album I really would like to go in depth with analog. It’s a lost art nowadays.
D: Whatever sounds good.
Is there a specific beat component which make your beats sound ahead of their time or “futuristic”? What different elements do you consider when making a new track? Take us on a trip through the mind of a producer please!
J: I think when we say “futuristic” its more along the lines of what me and Dot are really listening nowadays. Lots of podcasts and SC pages doing there take on modern hip hop and R&B, soul records. I think we take a little from them and just do what we like to do. As for components, it’s more composition than sampling but sampling is still very relevant. Also the way drums are made play a huge factor. I believe also that we are definitely trying to move into another audience when we try different styles of records. We sure as hell don’t want to lose our original audience but gaining more broader fans is a goal of ours.
DotKom, do you look for something specific when you dig for samples? Do you ever reach out to anything/anyone for inspiration?
D: If I come across a new or old song/sample that I think J could flip well, I usually give it to him and see what he can do to them. Otherwise, I really don’t have a favorite sound. As long as I enjoy it, I usually will start writing to it. I prefer dope drums too.
As for inspiration, Caffeine, Hot-Cheetos, books, and exploring the City of Chicago. Being around different people also gives me inspiration. Also basketball.
J. Arthur, do you write all the lyrics to the tracks? How do you select what topics to write about? Do you write your lyrics before, during or after the beat is produced?
J: I would say I write all my verses but a-lot of hooks go back and forth with me and Dot. Topics really just come and go with the mood. There are times I do sit on topics for days then present them to Dot and the team but really a lot of writing for me nowadays comes in the moment of things. I wish listeners take something back emotionally. I would like for them to grow with me artistically.
I was peeping through some of the videos on your site; specifically, the ones of your performances. They look poppin’! How diverse does your crowd get at your shows?
J : I would say we have a pretty diverse crowd which is a awesome thing. Not a lot of acts can do that. I remember just like maybe 2 months ago a fan drove 2 hours away to catch us at a show in Chicago. Crazy.
D: Yeah, our crowd is pretty diverse. But as for a crazy show, our first headlining show at Lincoln Hall for “Ridin’ Waves” was crazy. We got people to get low on the floor during “Need Somebody”
What has been the your most memorable experience about sharing the stage with artists such as Evidence of Dilated Peoples, Elzhi of Slum Village, Black Milk, Tanya Morgan, Psalm One, K-Os, Qwel and Maker of Typical Cats, Lyrics Born, Kids These Days, Denmark Vessey, THEESatisfaction, and ShowYouSuck? Out of all these artists, were you star-struck by one specifically?
J: I was a huge fan of K-Os when I was in high school. I bought all his albums and fell in love with his work. It was crazy because that show specifically was one of our first gigs in the City and it just so happened to be that we were opening for him. Crazy as hell to me. I don’t know still, meeting certain artists at shows is still mind boggling but it comes with the territory. I try not to geek myself up about because well ya know… we’re on the bill with these guys. We worked hard as hell to be here. Gotta really take it like that approach now ya feel me?
D: My most memorable would have to be opening up for Evidence just because I’m a big fan of his work. Definitely was star struck but I always remind myself that all these artists are just like us. Whenever I talked to all these artists, they were all humble and very approachable which is what I want to be if we ever get to their level.
I noticed you are reading Bruce Lee’s “Artist of Life”. Would you recommend this book?
D: Bruce Lee is my idol man. I definitely recommend this book especially being an artist. It kind of taught me not to really have one certain style. It is better to not tag yourself to a certain style because once you put that label on yourself, you kind of limit yourself. He kind of teaches you to flow with everything like water.
You can’t force anything, even making music.
I have got tom complement your logo! Who created it?
J: Shout out to our homie Kevin Prudencio for creating it. I’ve known the kid since grade school and he was just always creating art as long as Ive known him. He’s incredible and I thank him a lot for his contributions to the W? always! Follow him! @Knowpassion
On your Riding Waves project you have a collab with Bambu; specifically the track “MEAN”. How did this collab come about?
J: I believe it was almost like a year in the making. We linked through a blog post on 2dopeboyz.com. He was digging our work and we just linked through Twitter. We didn’t meet him until we flew him out for the Ridin’ Waves release party in Dec 2013. We made the record in April/May 2013. Really cool dude. Insight on the world is great.
Now let’s get into your latest project; it seems like a big one! On your latest album, MARATHON, how did you come up with the idea to split your tracks into “Episodes”?
J: We had no ideas for it at first. We were kind of stumped on how we wanted to present the records to the world until one day in the studio our engineer Switch suggests that we should drop the album as if it was a television show. A TV Marathon of some sort but more of a metaphorical twist. Not an actual TV show but that “Life is A Marathon” and here are a bunch of songs that we have expressed our livelihoods on.
How was your approach different when initiating the plan for MARATHON compared to your other projects: Ridin’ Waves, The Red Tape? Any special considerations?
J: Our main goal was to hit more publicity. Ridin’ Waves marketing plan was very lackluster unfortunately, because we didn’t know how to market ourselves professionally at that stand point. With halfway through Marathon I think we have gotten way better. We have hit some goals on certain publications but theres always room to improve with it.
Who’s been the photographer/film engineer for this project?
J: Engineer is Switch our main engineer and Chris Classick! Follow them! @switchforshort @chrisclassick
D: Also our manager @ChetG and our homie @88til helps with the photos.
ChetG: It was filmed all over Chicago, specifically the Millennium park, Belmont Harbor, Union Station, and Humboldt Park.
J. Arthur, you mentioned that the lyrics on this track are based on your real trials and tribulations (Jesse Arthur Manaois); what specifically were you experiencing while writing this? How did you hope and what do you wish your listeners to get out of these lyrics? What was it like collaborating with guest star Erthe St. James? How was hid presence important?
J: that verse for me was just a lot of thoughts and things going on in my life and what has happened in my life. The line “almost my life on that night when them Chevy brakes malfunctioned” is a true story. I got into a damn near fatal accident in college with my Chevy Cavalier I was driving at the time. There are a lot of personal quotables that only my peers around understand I don’t think a whole general have accepted it yet.
DotKom, You mentioned your verses on this track are about
“never giving up without a fight: ‘you can’t take my land tho/ catch an arrow to yo forehead, vigilante Rambo/ infinite ammo so I load one then I Django’” “Doing the most with what you got: ‘his that Cadillac/ four in the front/ five in the back shit’” “real life social problems: ‘the block is hot the cops cold blooded buckin assuming something/ lives lost over nothin , authoritarian holocaust is comin, and yall frontin’”
How important is it to you that your listeners apply these messages to their daily lives?
D: Listeners can take in whatever they want from my music. At the end of the day, I just want my listeners to be inspired. To put a thought in somebody’s head and actually have them take action from what you said, that could be real powerful man.
J: My personal intention is to influence someone. Anyone. The line where I go “I’m on a mission just to get a listen from somebody” is a point blank statement. We are here to entertain you but at the end of the day we would like for you guys to take something home with you.
Your track “Tree House” for Episode 2 is merged with photos of dice, money, run-down alley, train tracks, empty water bottle. What exactly were you trying to accomplish with these images?
J: There’s tons of emotions in that record. From experiences not having water to drink in your homes, not having food to eat, ORDERING ORANGE CHICKEN! It’s a part of our daily lives. Were just trying to get through and get by and we hope that we are aide to get your through yours.
D: Struggle is going on with everybody whether they are comfortable or still trying to get on. It just goes along with the whole “life is a Marathon” concept . Don’t take it too fast or you might get burnt out. As an artist, especially doing this for awhile, you definitely want some type of reward for performing. We’ve put a lot of time perfecting our craft and if a promoter asks you to perform for free, that’s like not feeding the person who cooked for you.
Episode 3 features “Over Ya Head”. You mentioned is a fun track that you take back to the mentality of the traditional “bragging” rapper. I find this to be pretty awesome, as I consider it is inevitably a major part of rapper/emcee history. What was your personal perspective while creating this track?
J: Braggin’ in rap has been around since its heyday. It’s always fun to just sit back and write a record with just straight bars of braggadocia…. Is that even a word? Haha. JUST SWAG and FINESSE sometimes ya feel me?
D: Not to be so serious when it comes to songs. I grew up listening to Big Pun, Tribe Called Quest, WU Tang , Eminem who used verbal linguistics to make the track fun. If you want to call yourself a rapper, you better have the talent to make it seem like rapping is difficult.
Episode 4 features the track “Sideways” which portrays black and white images of the city life and the ocean; were these shot in any particularly special locations to you?
J: Pretty personal record for me. I wasn’t in the greatest of light when we sat down and made that record but I’m glad that it’s helping people get through their lives. A lot of people tell me and have messaged us that it’s one of there favorites so far.
D: it was mostly shot in China Town around 3 AM after we had a show. We were tired but wanted to catch our energy as exhausted but still doing what we gotta do.
Episode 5 features the track “Request Line” which is introduced by a video. Do the colors blue and red have a significance to the emotion/message you are attempting to convey?
J: For this record we wanted to blatantly write a radio song. The structure to it is so simple yet effective. Its a fan favorite as well.
Any messages/shout-outs for the public?
J: Peace to my Mom and my brothers. Peace to the crew TNB and all the fans nation and WORLDWIDE. Still crazy to say that. Haha.
D: My fiancé Jasmine, who has always supported me in my music, and my family. S/O to TNB and people and places who make good ass food.
Any plans to come to Los Angeles soon?
J: YES. VERY SOON HOPEFULLY. BE ON THE LOOKOUT and FOLLOW US ON TWITTER TO FIND OUT WHEN WE DO! @theWHOevers